Johnson Cook

Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Johnson Cook - Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Thoughts on Finding Your Hammer

When you’re building a product and talking to customers at the same time, hopefully you’re spending your time on the questions: How would you use this product?  How can this product affect your company?  What else can this product do for you? 

But when you get the answers, it’s easy to feel frustrated when they are all over the place without obvious commonalities. Especially when selling into large enterprises, individual departments have specific, unique problems to solve.

I like to think when having these conversations that we are selling tools to contractors. When we talk to a roofer, his use case is: I need a roof installing tool.

The framer needs a stud installation device. 

The window guy needs a gentle leveling device. 

The carpet guy needs a device that can install carpet strips and edges. 

You may think that you’ll never find a solution, until you realize that they all need a hammer.  It’s not obvious that you’re selling a hammer when you spend all your time thinking about the roofer’s use case. That’s why it’s important to 

A) talk to as many different potential users as possible

B) peel back their layers asking why and how as many times as possible

C) present lots of options/ideas for how a roof installation could be helped

Once you start to discover the hammer, it’s important to realize that you aren’t going to come out with a Pneumatic Nail Gun on your first product. So it’s good to say “no” to some things when you can tell they are obviously out of reach for you.   But on the flip side of that, as Seth said in a great post on building softwareYou could, for example, make a hammer simpler by removing the nail puller on the other side. But that makes a useful tool less useful.

Discovering your hammer, how to describe it, and where the balance is between power and simplicity is not an easy task. But once you see it successfully sink that first nail, it’s exhilarating and rewarding. 

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